Where Does The Fish Name ‘Carp’ Come From?

Above: common carp (Cyprinus carpio)

The original common carp was found in the inland delta of the Danube River about 2000 years ago, and was torpedo-shaped and golden-yellow in colour. It had two pairs of barbels and a mesh-like scale pattern. Although this fish was initially kept as an exploited captive, it was later maintained in large, specially built ponds by the Romans in south-central Europe (verified by the discovery of common carp remains in excavated settlements in the Danube delta area). As aquaculture became a profitable branch of agriculture, efforts were made to farm the animals, and the culture systems soon included spawning and growing ponds.

[Source: Wikipedia]

It is highly likely that these distinctive freshwater fish were already being referred to by a similar-sounding name to ‘carp’ in the region of the Danube River’s inland delta back in ancient times.

Wiktionary states that the English word ‘carp’ originated from Old French ‘carpe’, which in turn is from Late Latin/Vulgar Latin ‘carpa’, which itself probably ultimately derives from Gothic ‘*karpa’.  Gothic is an extinct East Germanic language spoken by the Goths.  Other attested forms include Middle Dutch ‘carpe’ and Old High German ‘karpfo’ or ‘karpho’.

But the ultimate origin is “unknown” or “unsettled”.

Recently I have been observing what I consider to be a considerable number of Chadic cognates within Indoeuropean languages (especially Italo-Celtic and Germanic, but others also, and non-Indoeuropean languages such as Basque).

A number of scholars have posited an Afroasiatic substrate within these languages; however previous research has focused more on Semitic or to a lesser degree Berber as possible sources for this, and Chadic has been generally overlooked.

Whether there is a Chadic substrate in western Indoeuropean languages [Italo-Celtic &/or Germanic &/or Slavic] remains to be seen [see also my earlier post: Where did the word ‘hand’ originate from?]

However something which really caught my attention recently is a common generic word for “fish” in West- and Central-Chadic languages (or Proto-Central Chadic):-

  • “*Kirop-”


  • “Kɨrɨp”

[Source:- “Central Chadic Reconstructions” – Richard Gravina (2014);  “Vocabulary of Water in Chadic” – Olga Stolbova (1997)]

In my opinion there is a strong resemblance between the Proto-Central Chadic word for fish and Gothic *karpa, but the likelihood is that nobody will investigate further or take the possibility even remotely seriously.

Above: Fishing in Lake Chad



Loanwords from African languages in the Basque language?

  • English———-Basque—————African Languages

  • Ditch————‘Zanga’————–‘Tsanya’ [Hausa]
  • Stone————‘Harri’—————‘Hayre’ [Fula]
  • Skin————-‘Larru’—————‘Larral’ [Fula]
  • Skin————-‘Larru’—————‘Ara’ [Yoruba]
  • True————-‘Egiazko’————-‘Gaskiya’ [Hausa]
  • Forgive———–‘Barka’————–‘Gbaghara’ [Igbo]
  • Snake————-‘Suge’—————‘Zoka’ [Zaramo]
  • Snake————-‘Suge’—————‘NZoka’ [Sukuma]
  • Snake————-‘Suge’————-‘InZoka’[Luhya,Kinyarwanda,Kirundi]
  • Bird—————‘Txori’—————‘Tsoli’ [Punu]
  • Bird—————‘Txori’—————‘Sholli’ [‘birds’ – Fula]
  • Twenty———–‘(H)ogei’————-‘Ugie’ [Edo]
  • Twenty———–‘(H)ogei’————-‘No:gay’ [Fula]
  • Twenty———–‘(H)ogei’————-‘Noogaj’ [Fula]
  • Meat————-‘(H)aragi’————‘Eran Jije’ [Yoruba]
  • Meat————-‘(H)aragi’————‘Arizh’ [Nubian]
  • Rope————-‘Soka’—————‘Sugey’ [Songhai]
  • Shout————‘(O)ihu’————–‘Ihu’ [Hausa]
  • Child————-‘Ume’————–‘Omo’ [Yoruba & Edo]
  • Knife————-‘Labana’————‘Labi’ [Fula]
  • Knife————-‘Labana’————‘Lobe’ [‘dagger’ – Yoruba]
  • Trap————–‘Lakirio’————‘Qrra’ [Tamazight Berber]
  • There————-‘Han’————–‘Lohun’ [Yoruba]
  • Ash—————‘Errau(ts)’———-‘Eeru’ [Yoruba]
  • We—————-‘Gu’————–‘Gu’,‘Ku’, [Kpelle]
  • We—————-‘Gu’————–‘Ku’ [Guro, Yaure]
  • Blood————–‘(O)dol’————‘Dyoli’ [Malinke, Dyula]
  • Blood————–‘(O)dol’————‘Dyolo’ [Bolo]
  • Seed—————‘(H)azi’————‘Sii’ [Mandinka]
  • Seed—————‘(H)azi’————‘Si’ [Khassonke, Malinke, Bambara]
  • Knee—————‘Bel(h)aun’———‘Kum-balin’ [Khassonke]
  • Knee—————‘Bel(h)aun’———‘Kum-balino’ [Mandinka]
  • Arrow————–‘Gezi’————–‘Bine-kise’ [Bambara]
  • Arrow—————‘Gezi’————–‘kèsé’/’kese’/’kēsé’[Baraïn, E.Chadic]
  • I——————-‘Ni’—————‘Nii’ [Hausa]
  • Red—————–‘Gorri’————‘Cirey’ [Songhai]
  • Mud—————-‘Loka(tz)’———-‘Laka’ [Hausa]
  • Foot—————-‘(H)oin’———–‘Koyn-gal’ [Fula]
  • Wind—————‘(H)aize’———-‘Azwu’ [Tamazight Berber]
  • Wind—————‘(H)aize’———-‘Ess-i’ [Nubian]
  • Black—————‘Bel(tz)’———–‘Bal-ejum’ [Fula]
  • Meal—————-‘Baskari’———-‘Gari’ [Hausa]
  • Two—————–‘Bi’————–‘Biyu’ [Hausa]
  • Jump—————-‘Salto’———–‘Tsalle’ [Hausa]
  • Menstruation, period—‘Hileko’———-‘Haila’ [Hausa]
  • Short—————-‘(La)bur’———‘Obere’ [Igbo]
  • Cloud—————-‘Hodei’———-‘Gude’ [Yoruba]
  • Cloud—————-‘Hodei’———-‘Kuiti’ & ‘Kidi’ [Tedaga]
  • Lobster————–‘(O)tarraina’——-‘Ndeerindeerino’ [Mandinka]
  • Shrimp————–‘(O)tarrainska’—–‘Ndeerindeerino’ [Mandinka]
  • Hoof—————-‘Apatxhari’——–‘Patako’ [Yoruba]
  • Woman————–‘Emakumea’——‘Kamu’ [Kanuri]
  • Old——————‘Zahar’———-‘Tsoho’ [Hausa]
  • Town—————-‘Hiri’,‘Herri’——‘Gari’ [Hausa]
  • Wife—————–‘Emazte’———‘Mata’ [Hausa]
  • Fish—————–‘Arrain’———‘Hari’ [Songhai]
  • Rain—————–‘Euri’————‘Are’, ‘Ari’ [Nubian]
  • Bark—————–‘Azal’———–‘Azi’ [Nubian]
  • Foot——————‘(H)oin’———‘O:y’ [Nubian]
  • Round—————-‘Biribil’———‘Obirikiti’ [Yoruba]
  • And——————‘Eta’————‘Ati’ [Yoruba]
  • Dog——————‘Txakur’———‘Kare’ [Hausa]
  • Leg——————‘Hanka’———-‘Tanka’ [Wolof]
  • Chief—————–‘Buru-zagi’——-‘Sarki’ [Hausa]
  • Yawn—————–‘Aharrausi’——-‘Uhere’ [Igbo]
  • [Water] Spring———‘Iturburu’——–‘Asuburu’ [Twi]
  • Bay——————-‘Badia’——–‘Baadaa’ [‘seaside’/’beach’ in Mandinka]
  • Elbow—————–‘Ukondo’——-‘Conco’ [Wolof]
  • Go——————–‘Jo[h]an’——-‘Jah-a’/‘Jan-a’ [Fula]
  • Earth, Ground———-‘Lur’———–‘Lo’ [Bobo]
  • Earth, Ground———-‘Lur’———–‘Lwoe’ [Kpelle]
  • Path, Way————-‘Bide’———-‘Beda’ [‘large road’ in Khassonke & Bambara]
  • Night—————–‘Gau’———–‘Gue’ [Bozo]
  • Name—————–‘Izen’———-‘Isem’ [Tuareg Berber]
  • To Lie Down————‘Etzan’———‘Ettes’ [‘sleep’ in Tuareg]
  • Wood(en)————-‘Zur-ezko’——‘(I)sarir’ [Tuareg]




Did Many Ancient European River Names Get Their Name From the Dinka Word For “River”? [Part 3]


Dinka is a Western Nilotic language from the Nilo Saharan language family, comprising five similar dialects and spoken by about 2-3 million Dinka people in southern Sudan.

From the Dinka-English dictionary [source: http://www.RogerBlench.info ]:-


  • wär / wɛɛ̈r ̈ SWr n. any body of water: river, lake or pond, water well. loc: wïïr.

  • wɛɛ̈r̈ NEd SWr SEb Sg: wär. n. rivers, lakes.


  • Hausa (West Chadic): ‘wuriya‘ [‘rushing stream’];

  • Miya (West Chadic): ‘wər‘ [‘lake’];


Now look at the European river names included in the map below, which is taken from Hans Krahe’s Unsere ältesten Flussnamen [“Our oldest river names”] (1964), and see the resemblance of these European river names to the Dinka words for ‘river’ :-

In addition to the thirty-six European rivers shown in the map above, there are a few rivers in England and Wales with similar names which were omitted from Krahe’s map.  These include: River Wear; River Were; River Ver; River Wyre; River Vyrnwy; etc.  The Old English word ‘wer’, meaning a fish trap or weir [from which the word ‘weir’ comes]; and also the Welsh word ‘wern’ meaning a swamp or quagmire might also be related. And Latin ‘ver’ meaning ‘spring’ maybe.

This is another example of ancient European river names sounding very similar to an African word for river which is definitely worthy of further research.

Ancient European River Names – Do their Names Derive From African Languages? (Part 2)


Above: River Saar, Germany


In my previous post I looked at the similarities between the names of various European rivers (whose names are believed to be thousands of years old), and their close resemblance to words for ‘river’ in a number of African languages.

In today’s post I continue this theme.

Here are several other similar-sounding river names from across Europe with ancient origins:-

  • Soar (England)

  • Soar, formerly known as Saravus (Belgium)

  • Serre, formerly known as Sera (France)

  • Cère, formerly known as Sera (France)

  • Séran, formerly known as Sera (France)

  • Saurunz, formerly known as Serantia (Alsace, France)

  • Schremm, formerly known as Serma (Germany)

  • Sorgwm [Welsh for “Sor Valley“], (Wales)

  • Zorn, formerly known as Sorna (Alsace, France)

  • Saire, formerly known as Sara (Normandy, France)

  • Saar(e) (Brandenburg, Germany)

  • Sar, formerly known as Saros (Spain)

  • Serio, formerly known as Sarius (Lombardy, Italy)

  • Sarià (Lithuania)

  • Saar, formerly known as Saravus (Germany)

  • Sernf, formerly known as Sarnivos? (Switzerland)

Linguists have postulated a Proto-Indo European root *ser-, “to flow”, as a common origin for these names.

As usual, the linguists didn’t care to have a look further south in Africa for languages with potentially related words.

  • sɛ́rɛ́word for “river” in Northern Maa [north Kenya – eastern Nilotic languages];

  • Suriword for “river” in Dazaga [north Chad – Saharan languages];

  • Suri – word for “river” in Tedaga [north Chad – Saharan languages];

Both of the above resemble the word ‘isuri’ [“to pour, spill, flow”] from the Basque language of south-western Europe.

  • Soura River (NW Africa – links Atlas Mountains to the lakes in the Ahnet-Movydir basin);

  • Asuwaword for “stream” in Twi [Ghana – Kwa languages, Tano subgroup of Niger-Congo languages];

    UPDATED 4/12/16

However, the closest resemblance of all [especially in light of the word ‘isuri’ meaning ‘to flow’ etc. in the Basque language of south-western Europe] can be seen in the Ijoid languages of Nigeria, and words meaning “to flow” in various languages of that group, several of which are IDENTICAL to the Basque word:-

“FLOW” (V.I.)
NK           sérí
Ịbanị       sírí
Kalaba    sérí
KI             sérí
NE           seri
AK           iheri
BU           isérí
OY           iseri
EO           isórí
AP           isórí
ID            sori
OG           sori
FU            sori
AR            sori
OB            seri
OE            sʊɔ, serí 
ME           sʊɔ, serí 
KU            sérí
KB            serií
WT           serí
IK             súɔ, sérí súɔ
EK            serí
KO            sérí sʊɔ́ 
GB            sérí sʊɔ́ 
OR            sʊɔ́ ɓéni